LAYOGA November 2009
practice pages: meditation
a moment-by-moment meditation from the radiance sutras, a new version of the vijnana bhairava tantra
by dr. lorin roche
Back in the day, I was a “fire and forget” yogi: get up in the morning, flow through some asana, pranayama, meditation, and then forget about yoga and just go live. That was the ‘60s, and that was the teaching. It worked. The idea was, that during the day, when you are in action, don’t distract yourself with spiritual thoughts; don’t add “spiritually correct” slogans to your mental chatter. Be focused, skillful and effective. Have desires and pursue them with passion.
Ten years later, when I was twenty-eight, my teacher gave me a totally different practice. He said to focus on a certain mantra all day, every day. Live continually, moment-by-moment, inside the pulsation of a heart-prayer. At first I thought this was weird. But gradually the mantra became an ecstatic part of my life, an inner soundtrack that nourishes me still, and feeds my groove.
In sutra 109 of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Bhairava is singing of such a moment-by-moment practice.
Native of eternity.
At home in infinity.
Let these words sing in every cell.
Abundance of splendor.
Luminous energies of creation,
Pulsating everywhere always.
What could these astounding words mean?
Meditate on them continually,
Let the impulses ripple through you.
Resonate with the all-pervading hum of truth
Every fleeting moment is
Supported by forever.
nityo vibhurnirādhāro vyāpakaścākhilādhipaḥ |
śabdān pratikṣaṇaṃ dhyāyan kṛtārtho 'rthānurūpataḥ ||
Inserting word boundaries, breaking the sandhi (the rules for blurring one word into the next), making the ancient grammarians jump into the Ganges, and spelling out – approximately – the sounds that the diacritical marks point to, we see:
nityah – innate, native, one’s own, continual, perpetual, eternal; vibhuh – all-pervading, everywhere, omnipresent, sovereign, mighty; niradharah – without a receptacle or support; vyapakah-cha – all-pervasive; akhila-adhipah – master of the universe; shabdan – words; pratikshanam – moment-by-moment, each moment; dhyayan – meditating; kritarthah – attained purpose, fulfillment; anurupatah – corresponding form.
A word-for-word translation would be: Innate, eternal, omnipresent, sovereign, supportless, all-pervading, Master of the Universe – meditate on these words moment-by-moment and become fulfilled. Meditate in this way and develop experiences corresponding to these words.
I’ve juiced that up a bit by letting this song of the eternal have some chords backing it up: Native to eternity, at home in infinity. There are many more layers of meaning in these lines, for they emerge from the vast splendor of the universe of tantric discourse. Shabha is not just “word,” it refers also the living current of sound and revelation behind words. The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is a manual of embodied experience. Each word in a sutra is a note in a vibrant song, evoking a symphony of energies that can be felt in the body. As we engage with tantra yoga techniques, we are alerted to the presence of the sacred that is always permeating our physical and subtle bodies. We are invited to savor the incredible intensity underlying our physical and spiritual existence.
How do we get into such a practice, moment-by-moment? When I first took this up, I spent a month getting to know each syllable, word and phrase in the mantra, until I knew it by heart. My day was like this: wake up to the mantra, with it as my first thought; do some asana, pranayama and meditation, and bathe in the mantra. Then go do stuff, with the mantra resonating in my heart all day long. That was the idea. But I found that I forgot to be with the practice. (I won’t say, “do the practice,” because it is more a state of being.) I would only remember to be with the mantra for a few minutes every hour or two. My teacher directed me to read the Letters of St. Paul, who talks about asking the Holy Spirit to pray for you. This clicked somehow, so in meditation I asked the spiritual energy I felt in the mantra to repeat itself in my heart. In so doing, I joined my heart to my spiritual heart, and allowed the energy of that communion to carry the prayer, to keep the mantra going without any effort on my part.
Over the next couple of months, I discovered that my body loved this practice. The feeling is of being in my own portable sanctuary, and everywhere I went I felt at home. In my inner world, I was at the beach, in the sunshine. And in the outer world, I was functioning very well, at the top of my game.
The words to use are different for each of us, and change over time as we evolve. Find your way into infinity through the sensory. The ocean is vast – and as far as the body is concerned, infinite. So you could use “ocean” instead of the word nityah. The idea is to find qualities of life, the universe, the Divine that you love, and would want to be immersed in as you walk through your day. Select words that resonate with you and remind you of the deepest currents of truth you feel called to. You could use Sanskrit words such as shanti – peace, or karuna – compassion. Or you could use English words such as infinite love, or awe. To start off, get to know your word or words, by meditating on them in little bits of time. Perhaps sit and meditate for five minutes with a word, feel into it. Do this every day for a few weeks, and gradually lengthen your meditation time to twenty minutes. Then, if this still feels good, ask the word to repeat itself in your heart throughout the day. Ask your life force to carry the tune for you.
Never impose such a practice on yourself. Rather, invite yourself in. Give yourself permission to engage with the Yoga, and notice what happens. Always inquire, “Is this practice for me, now?” Take a sip of the elixir of a practice, then see and feel how it impacts your life.
Dr. Lorin Roche has been involved in a love affair with the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra since 1968. He has a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to de¬scribe their inner experiences. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from Lorin’s website: lorin¬roche.com. Lorin teaches from the Sutras on Wednesday nights in Venice at Aanand Saagar. Feel free to email comments and questions to email@example.com.
The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra describes 112 Yogas of wonder and delight for touching the divine in the midst of daily life. The teach¬ing is framed as a conversation between lov¬ers, Shakti and Shiva, the Goddess Who Is the Creative Power of the Universe, and the God Who Is the Consciousness that Perme¬ates Everywhere.
Come to Esalen January 15-17, 2010, for a weekend Radiance Sutras Immersion with Dr. Lorin Roche. Visit Esalen.org, or call (310) 570-2803.